Canvass strategy paid off for McEllistrim


ANALYSIS: After his poll-topping performance in Kerry North, Fianna Fáil's Tom McEllistrim revealed that his main electoral strategy was to ignore the media and concentrate on the people who counted - the voters.

In an extraordinary election campaign, during which Mr McEllistrim made it patently obvious to reporters and cameramen that he had no interest whatsoever in them, he sought favour only among the electorate which his family has served since 1923, when his grandfather, Tom, became a Sinn Féin TD. In 1926, he stood as a Fianna Fáil TD in the constituency and held the seat without interruption until 1969. The McEllistrim line was broken only in 1987, when his father, Tom jnr, lost by a handful of votes to Dick Spring.

During the canvass, Mr McEllistrim visited almost every house in Kerry North, and whenever he found no one at home he made a point of returning to the house. His handlers said that effectively the McEllistrim canvass began two years ago. Asked why he had decided not to bother with the media, Mr McEllistrim said he believed many of today's politicians were too concerned with the "air war" and didn't spend enough time working "on the ground war".

While others were looking for sound bytes, he was speaking to his constituents and getting his message across. The result was an emphatic win and proved that the form of politics that mattered most was the one which involved personal contact and listening to what the voters on the ground had to say.